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Murkowski opposes White House proposal to take back federal spending

WASHINGTON — Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is not interested in the White House's hopes of taking back some of the taxpayer dollars spent in the recently passed omnibus spending bill, she said.

Murkowski's no, along with reported disinterest from Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins and a few others, means that it is unlikely that the Senate GOP could muster the 50 votes needed to pass legislation handing more purse power to the president.

"Yeah, I just don't think that we need it. We had a budget agreement," Murkowski said Wednesday on her way out of the Capitol. "And again I've said it's not a perfect product. I don't think anyone is professing that it be. But I am not supportive of a rescission effort."

The talk of "rescission," or a "claw back" of the budget dollars, comes after the Congressional Budget Office released a report Monday that warned of ever-growing national debt.

The White House is expected to send a proposal to Congress, asking the body to cut some spending from the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that President Donald Trump signed last month.

Murkowski voted for the bill. Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan voted no, saying he could not abide by a process that didn't allow lawmakers enough time to review the bill.

Asked about engaging a process to cut already-appropriated funds, Sullivan said the prospect appears to be a nonstarter. There has "been no discussion since I've been back among my colleagues," Sullivan said, referring to the recent two-week congressional break.

"So I've been starting to review what (the process) actually entails," Sullivan said. "I'm not going to speculate if it's something that's unlikely to happen. Right now, that appears to be."

But generally, Sullivan said he believes that the budget process "is completely broken."

Given recent tax cuts and spending plans, "federal debt is projected to be on a steadily rising trajectory throughout the coming decade — approaching 100 percent of gross domestic product by 2028," the CBO said.

Murkowski said it is important to be "mindful" of being good stewards of taxpayer money.

"But I think we also recognize that trying to address this with a rescission effort that's going to go after some aspects of discretionary spending, you're not impacting it at all. And so let's not be deceptive in letting people think that we're actually making a difference there, because we haven't," she said.

Managing the nation's growing deficit is "going to require more than a threat to strike a few things," she said.

Sullivan questioned the validity of the CBO report, noting that the organization "has a history of not always getting it right."

The economy has been growing at a higher rate than CBO previously projected, Sullivan said, attributing that to the recent tax cuts.

"That is a complete rewrite," he said. The CBO upgraded its projections for the economy, but it also made projections based on the assumption that the tax cuts would sunset in 10 years, Sullivan said.

"And I think that's an assumption that's very debatable." The senator said he doesn't think that the country will go back to slower growth in 10 years.

And like Murkowski, Sullivan said it's clear that the nation's budget problems aren't something that Congress can cut its way out of. Two-thirds of the federal government's spending is "entitlement" spending: Social Security, Medicare and a few other social "safety net" programs.

"Non-discretionary," Sullivan said. "So when we debate the omnibus, that's the one-third of the budget that's discretionary spending. … Everybody knows … that those programs are on an unsustainable path. So we have to have, in my view, the courage to start to talk about it. That's the real spending challenge."